Columbus Community Celebrates Juneteenth As City Moves To Recognize Holiday

Jun 19, 2020

As hundreds of Columbus residents celebrated Juneteenth on the city’s East Side, the city government moved to formally recognize June 19 as a holiday.

The Franklin County Commissioners announced Friday that June 19 will be an official paid holiday for county workers, while it stops recognizing Columbus Day.

Mayor Andrew Ginther also signed a proclamation recognizing the day as Juneteenth - a commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

In a Facebook post, Ginther wrote that he wants the city to recognize the day of freedom, “while understanding that many of our black and brown neighbors still do not feel free to walk or drive in some neighborhoods for fear of being profiled or to pursue their dreams of owning a home or starting a business because of economic inequalities.”

On Friday afternoon, hundreds came out to Mayme Moore Park to celebrate the event through art and activism. Javon Collins of the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing and Cultural Arts Complex says this year, the holiday looks different.

“After the incidents that have been occurring in our country, not only in the past month, but in the past 400 years,” Collins says. “I think people are at a point where they really want to show that solidarity.”

A group of girls from the Thiossane West African Dance Institute at a Juneteenth celebration in Columbus on June 19, 2020.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Collins says art has been used a way for the community to show solidarity and to find a release. He thinks the paintings on boarded-up windows downtown are a good example of that.  

Collins says he feels encouraged by all the different races and ages of people who came out to celebrate Juneteenth.

“We’re engaging the community, those who were here 30-40 years ago doing the same type of events, we wanted to engage them so the children can see how we convene and how we can move forward to a brighter tomorrow,” he says.

Tony West is nearly 80 years old, and says his view on current events, including the recent protests over police violence and racism, is perhaps less optimistic than younger generations.

“Is it a band aid, or is there a cure?” West says. “It seems like this has all happened the same way before. The difference was the spark.”

West says before George Floyd, a movement was ignited by the death of Emmett Till.

“I would like to look at it as the pendulum, swinging back and forth,” he says. “History isn’t repeating itself. It didn’t change.”